Another Patriarch and the King — Genesis Chapter 26
This blog post will cover the devotionals #122-124 for Genesis Chapter 26.
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 Genesis 26:1-11
There had been a famine in Abraham’s day that caused him to go to Egypt and get into the mess with Sarah and Pharaoh (Genesis 12:10-20). Then, in Genesis 20, Abraham and Sarah had traveled to Gerar and stayed for a while. There, the same situation happened with Sarah and the local king, Abimelech. Both times, they claimed to be siblings to avoid putting Abraham at risk of death for her sake. Both times, there were major consequences. Now here, in Genesis 26, we see history repeating itself a little too close to home with their very own son and his wife. There was another famine, and Isaac went to Gerar to see the king of the Philistines, Abimelech. God stepped in and warned Isaac not to do what his father had done—but to stay in this land instead of going to Egypt. God promised to take care of, and bless, him and that He would fulfill His promise to Abraham for Isaac’s offspring. He then referred to what He said in Genesis 18:19, “I know him—he will command his children and his household after him, and they will keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He has spoken of him.” In that verse, He was referring to the promise He had made to Abraham, and how He would fulfill the promise through Abraham’s faithfulness to Him. Now, in Genesis 26:5, He repeats that same promise to Isaac and says that Abraham had done what God knew He would do (from Genesis 18:19), and thus, He could fulfill it. “…because Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” It’s powerful that, in speaking with Isaac, God chose to connect Abraham’s faithfulness to a warning not to repeat his unfaithful actions. This shows the goodness of God. You’ve likely heard the phrase, “I love you just as you are, but I love you too much to leave you that way.” God loved Abraham despite his sins, but He wanted to help Isaac avoid making the same ones. Well, Isaac didn’t go to Egypt, but he did make the same claim that his father had done twice (about his beautiful wife being his sister)—which wasn't even half true for Isaac. It’s very unlikely that Isaac never heard about either instance with his parents (where did he get the idea?), so it feels so much worse that he repeated their mistake. And it should come as no surprise that the same result occurred. However, this time, it was more awkward than unfortunate. King Abimelech happened to see Isaac and Rebekah through a window getting cozier than siblings should (the Bible uses the word, ‘sporting’). He confronted Isaac, saying that she was clearly his wife, so why did he lie and put them at risk for sleeping with her and sinning? He again told his people (like he’d done with Abraham and Sarah) not to touch Isaac or Rebekah, or else they’d receive the death penalty. I have to imagine that this king was starting to get weary of this family’s antics (first Abraham and now Isaac). However, as we’ll see in devotional #123, this wasn’t their last similar interchange.
 Genesis 26:12-33
After Isaac had his interchange with Abimelech, he began planting there and had a hundred times greater harvest that same year. He became great and made huge advancements. He had flocks, herds, and many servants. His wealth and success were the envy of the Philistines. The king's servants had filled all the wells (that Isaac’s servants had dug for their family) with earth to close them up after Abraham died. Abimelech finally told Isaac he needed to leave because he was much more numerous than the Philistines. So, he left and pitched in the valley of Gerar, and re-dug the same wells that had been filled in, and referred to each well by the name his father had given them. While digging in the valley, they found an artesian well (a spring). Gerar’s herdsmen fought with Isaac’s herdsmen, claiming the water was theirs. Thus, he named the well, ‘Esek’, which means ‘strife’. They dug another well, and there was strife over that one also, and it was named ‘Sitnah’, which means ‘opposition’. He moved away and dug a third well, and finally, it wasn’t fought over. He named it ‘Rehoboth’, meaning ‘broad place’, because God had finally provided room for them where they could be fruitful. He went to Beersheba and God appeared to him again, repeating His promises. Thus, Isaac built an altar there, and called on the name of the Lord (just as his father always did after God had promised / appeared to him). They dug another well there, and then Abimelech traveled from Gerar to visit him with a friend and an army captain (Phichol). Isaac was surprised to see him, since he hated Isaac and had sent him away. Isaac clearly had become acquainted with strife in his life. There's a distinct parallel between this meeting and a very similar one that Abimelech had with Abraham in Genesis 21:22-32 (in devotional #105), involving a treaty and a well. Abimelech and his same army captain, Phichol, had come to Abraham and asked him to swear that he wouldn’t deal falsely with him or his offspring—but to return the same kindness that he’d shown Abraham. Abraham swore he would, and then forgave Abimelech for his servants’ confiscation of his well. He named that place ‘Beersheba’ because of the oath they’d made, and now, in the same place, Abimelech found himself pleading with Abraham’s own son for the very same things. “We saw that the Lord was with you, so we said, ‘Let there now be an oath…and a covenant…between us; that you will not hurt us, as we have not touched you, and have done nothing but good unto you, and sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the Lord.’” Isaac prepared them a feast and they ate and drank all night, made their oath in the morning, and separated in peace. That same day, Isaac’s servant hit water in another well they dug, and he named it ‘Shebah’, meaning ‘seventh’. We see this is the fifth specific well mentioned in the chapter (outside of the vague mentions of the wells that were re-dug), so there’s a good chance that they’d reopened two of Abraham’s old wells. We see how what happened maintained the name of the place, ‘Beersheba’ (‘well of an oath’). Even despite the ‘wrong’ that Isaac did to the king, God still blessed him to the point of recognition by the king himself that God was with Isaac and that he was one to be allied with.
 Genesis 26:34,35
Isaac’s son, Esau, was the same age (forty) when he married his first two wives, Judith and Bashemath (Hittites)—the daughters of Heth. Heth was the son of Canaan, the cursed grandson of Noah (recall Ham's sin, from devotional #66). Heth was also the people from whom Abraham purchased the burial cave for Sarah. These people were deeply idolatrous. Bashemath was said to be the daughter of Elon in verse 34, but Genesis 36:3 tells us Bashemath was Ishmael’s daughter (the sister of his firstborn, Nebajoth). We’ll see, in Genesis 28, that Esau also married Ishmael’s daughter, Mahalath, after Isaac had blessed Jacob in his stead—and that he’d be displeased by Esau marrying a Canaanite. Genesis 36 dives deeper into Esau’s marriages and offspring, and we’ll see that he also married two other women: Adah (another daughter of ‘Elon’) and Aholibamah (the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon—a Hivite). We know Ishmael’s union and offspring were directly connected with heathenism and Egypt—another idolatrous people, and Esau’s parents knew full well that Abraham had been very insistent upon Isaac not marrying a Canaanite because he likely would’ve been influenced by their heathenism. Thus, Esau choosing to marry from these nations was a major grief to Isaac and Rebekah, and was in direct violation of the covenant for someone from God’s chosen people to not intermarry with the heathen. In devotional #125, we’ll see if Esau’s actions swayed Isaac’s decision to move forward and bestow the birthright on him—or not.